Accountability.

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The Trump clown car shed some bozos this week, most notably the media’s favorite cabinet member, Rex Tillerson, former head of Exxon Mobil, who managed to seem avuncular and unthreatening in comparison with most of his colleagues – this while he systematically dismantled the State Department. Still, he did appear to be perhaps the greatest naysayer on tearing up the Iran deal. With the Koch Brothers invention Mike Pompeo as Secretary of State, I’m sure we will nudge much closer to the 2000 bombing runs he once suggested as an effective means of halting the Islamic Republic’s nuclear program. In a saner age, that alone might have been disqualifying, but certainly not today.

Trump's new torturer.So, we’ll now have an Iran warmonger as chief diplomat. And in Pompeo’s old position at the head of the CIA, we will have the current deputy director Gina Haspel, a veteran of the Bush II-era Agency and a big fan of “rough” interrogation techniques (also known as torture). Haspel was directly involved in a CIA black site in Thailand where the Agency perpetrated torture of numerous individuals, including Abu Zubaydah, who was waterboarded by our operatives 89 times. She arrived after Zubaydah left, but later saw to it that incriminating tapes of this and similar episodes would be destroyed. For all those boning up on obstruction of justice standards in relation to the Trump White House, you might want to apply those standards to Haspel.

The torture crimes – essentially crimes against human dignity – are bad enough. But the fact that Haspel was part of an operation that was instrumental in the abuse of Zubaydah, whose extracted false testimony was key to the Bush administration’s case for invading Iraq, raises this to another level. You know the plausible story on this – Bush/Cheney and company had decided upon the Iraq invasion well before 9/11 (and on some level, before taking office), but they needed a plausible pretext. They had no convincing evidence for their claims regarding an Al Qaeda connection with Saddam Hussein or an active nuclear program, so they put the torturers to work at doing what they do best – getting people to say anything … ANYTHING … to stop the abuse. The very fact that they waterboarded Zubaydah 89 times indicates that they were looking for some response in particular. They got it, bogus as it obviously was, and from that proceeded the catastrophic Iraq war that is still killing people 15 years later – a conflict that, three years in, had resulted in more deaths than the 7-year Syrian civil war.

No one has been held accountable for the crime of the Iraq invasion, nor for the torture regime. I don’t expect that to happen anytime soon, but the least we can do is to stop rewarding the culprits with higher office. Maybe it wouldn’t be entirely fair to start with Haspel, but we have to start somewhere.

luv u,

jp

Christmas bot.

Posted on Leave a commentPosted in Usual Rubbish

Oh, Christmas bot, oh, Christmas bot! It’s hard to see just what you’ve got!

heres-bobYes, yes … we’re polishing up the holiday songs here at the abandoned Cheney Hammer Mill. T’is the season and all that. What, you’re not familiar with the dirge of the Christmas Bot? Small wonder. We just made it up. What kind of songwriters would we be if we resorted to used Christmas Carols? It would be a total cop out. So we are resolved to write lame Christmas numbers each and every December, five minutes before we hastily record them and throw them up on the internet. You’re welcome!

Legend has it that every year around this time, the sound of holiday ridiculousness wafts out of the old abandoned mill by the old abandoned canal in this old abandoned town. What an asinine legend. Just the sort of thing you’d expect in this lame backwater. Whoops – should have closed the window before I said that. Now all the neighbors know that I have NOTHING BUT CONTEMPT FOR THIS NEIGHBORHOOD!

Okay, well …. It’s probably obvious to all of you that I not only do not like having neighbors here at the mill. And it may seem to you that I am trying to drive them away with my obnoxiousness. That couldn’t be farther from the truth. We are trying to drive them away with the obnoxiousness of our raucous Christmas music. That’s probably the best way to scare away undesirables. Trouble is, we can’t keep it up for long enough to reach critical obnoxiousness mass, so we resort (as we always do) to Marvin (my personal robot assistant), who makes a fairly decent stereo system when he really tries. He just plugs his sorry ass into a couple of stereo speakers, plugs a memory stick into his ear, and cranks it up to twelve.

Unethical? Not a bit of it. We have no ethics, no code. That’s what Big Green is all about. THAT’S WHY WE’RE ABOARD HER. Do I hear a “no” vote?

What worked.

Posted on Leave a commentPosted in Political Rants

The Senate report on torture (a.k.a. war crimes) perpetrated by our government is out, and of course, the vast majority of media and political commentary misses the point by a mile. As is often the case with discussion of this issue, the question of efficacy is paramount. Did torture “work”? Did it yield the intelligence our government needed, for instance, to conduct its unauthorized raid on a sovereign country (Pakistan) and assassinate the prime suspect in the 9/11/2001 terror attacks (rather than bring him to trial)? Does it, more generally, extract reliable, “actionable” information, or just a bunch of blather that victims of torture usually pipe up just to make the agony stop?

Dressed for The HagueThis discussion is not limited to the full-on, proud of all we did crew, like the execrable Dick Cheney, snickering from his podium, confident that he will never pay for his crimes against humanity. This is the discussion being advanced by Senators who supposedly oppose these interrogation techniques. They didn’t work, they say. No useful intelligence was gained. What a strange conversation to be having at this moment in history, when we are confronted with detailed evidence of this latest foray (far from the first) into systematic abuse of those we seek to dominate and suppress.

These are crimes. They are explicit violations of both U.S. law and international law. Whether or not they “work” is immaterial, though I think it’s been fairly well demonstrated that you can’t torture the truth out of people. When someone robs a bank or shoots their neighbors in order to steal their car, we aren’t particularly interested in whether or not they successfully obtained the goods. When people break the law, they should be held accountable and have their day in court. That’s a conservative principle of long provenance.

Of course, what the torture program did produce was intelligence linking Saddam Hussein to Al Qaeda and the 9/11 attacks. That was, of course, completely bogus, waterboarded out of Al Libbi. It’s not hard to imagine how this worked. The Bush administration wanted to invade Iraq. They were, at some level, aware that torture may not be an ideal tool for extracting the truth, but it DOES work at getting people to say what you want to hear. Why else waterboard someone 80 times or more? In the end, they got what they wanted – a rationale for invasion.

So … torture works, if your aim is to produce incendiary lies. That’s what Bush/Cheney wanted, and the torture program didn’t disappoint.

luv u,

jp

Let us prey.

Posted on Leave a commentPosted in Political Rants

Couple of things to comment on this week. I’ll be brief – it’s a holiday, for chrissake.

Unforced confession. George W. Bush has been hawking his memoir for the last couple of weeks, proudly admitting that he personally authorized the use of waterboarding – a torture technique he considers legal because his legal advisors told him so. “I’m not a lawyer,” he told Matt Lauer in one interview. How far would that get any of us in front of a judge?

No one seems particularly bothered about this, but Bush’s proud admission, along with Cheney’s, is basically a declaration that our justice system is in a shambles; that the law applies only to the powerless and that cruel and unusual punishment is acceptable. Torture is a violation of U.S. statute and of international conventions to which the U.S. is both a signatory and a primary participant. Waterboarding is torture; it has been recognized as such since the days of Torquemada and before, I’ll wager.

Bush and Cheney have admitted their guilt; bragged about it, in fact, with the arrogance of men who know they are safe from accountability. The Justice Department should act upon these admissions without any thought to political expediency. That is not how the law is supposed to work. You break the law, you face justice – that’s how. Mr. Holder? Do your job.

Money rules. The results are in, and the winner of the 2010 election is corporate cash, by a landslide. The financial industry, health insurance lobby, and energy industry mad a massive investment in Republican candidates, both before the Citizens United decision and after, and they’ve certainly gotten their money’s worth. An astounding $3 billion was spent on composing the 112th congress; far more than in the 2006 cycle or even the 2004 presidential race. This piper will be paid, with interest, using the means at the disposal of any legislator; blocking, repealing, watering-down, stalling, inserting poison pills, defunding, delaying, and all of the tactics we’ve seen over the past two years.

Who are the winners? Just watch network or cable television for ten minutes and you’ll see them, preying on the public mind with their multi-million dollar ads about “our energy future” or what you should “ask your doctor” about. That’s who we need to defeat in 2012, and we’d better start working on it… yesterday.

luv u,

jp

What’s up.

Posted on Leave a commentPosted in Political Rants

Just a few thoughts prior to the most expensive mid-term elections in U.S. history.

Don’t abstain. You’ve heard this before from wiser people than me. You’ve even heard it from me. In any case, here it is again – don’t stay home on election day. Go out and vote. Vote against the money tide from corporate America. Make their Supreme Court-sanctioned pay-to-play electoral machine useless to them. It only works if we cooperate by failing to oppose their favored candidates – don’t. Get out there and mark those ballots – again, not because that’s the only thing that needs to happen in order to build a better world, but because it’s necessary to keep the media-fueled G.O.P. “tsunami” myth from materializing.

I’m most particularly addressing this message to folks in states like Wisconsin, where you are represented by the finest member of the U.S. Senate. For god’s sake, don’t replace Feingold with some vacuous millionaire CEO. And for those of you in Nevada who, I’m sure, read this column religiously, I encourage you to hold your noses and vote for Harry Reid, rather than allow that bigoted Schlafly clone to become one of the most narrow-minded members of the world’s greatest deliberative body. (Any sane person would vote against her on the basis of her incendiary anti-immigration ads alone.)  

Bloody mess exposed. I’ve sifted through only a tiny corner of the Iraq War documents released by Wikileaks, and I have to say I feel something distantly related to PTSD. Go to the Guardian site and check it out. This trove helps to confirm the oft-criticized claims of the antiwar movement; that the Bush administration was wanton in its disregard for the well-being of Iraqi civilians, that it had an administrative policy of non-intervention when detainees were being tortured, and so on. The torture revelations are not that surprising – this is the kind of approach we traditionally followed with third world allies prior to Bush’s wars: have the CIA guy observe while the El Salvadoran officer applies the thumb screw or the electrodes. In Iraq we had both the new way and the old.

Relax. When the power went off on that nuclear missile base in Wyoming, the major media outlets – including NPR – offered a brief item that amounted to, don’t worry, we never lost the ability to launch them. I slept a whole lot better after hearing that.

luv u,

jp

Stranger than.

Posted on Leave a commentPosted in Political Rants

Here is what I’m thinking about this week. Nothing too much out of the ordinary, frankly.

Another lie falls flat. Just listened to a harrowing story on Democracy Now!, about ten days old (I listen to the podcasts up here in nowheresville). Amy Goodman was talking to the wife of an Iraqi detainee – a partially disabled ex-general who’s been locked up by the Iraqis for about a year, tortured hideously, without charge or any prospect for release. The story is sadly familiar in its contours – you can find similar ones in practically every country we’ve ever “helped”. Listening to it, I could only think of one of the many justifications for the invasion of Iraq; that of protecting human rights, ending torture, etc. There will be no more rape rooms, George W. Bush promised to the Iraqis as he announced his unilateral, criminal war in March 2003.  Well…. there are rape rooms. Another lie bites the dust.

Not your monkey. It’s the economy, stupid, to be sure, but what about the economy? If a generalization can be made about the past three decades in U.S. economic history, it’s that the rich have done extremely well and the middle class and poor have lost ground… lots of ground. Someone no doubt has shouted “class war!” already, but friends, there has been a class war underway for thirty years now, and it’s being waged on us. And frankly, we’re losing. Part of the reason for that is that we are atomized, disorganized, and at war with one another. We are encouraged to be so from the moment we become aware of the world around us.

Look at the media / pundit reaction to the massive protests across Europe in opposition to austerity measures (to the extent that they’ve been covered, that is). Over here, the narrative is that these are spoiled workers complaining about nothing. Unspoken is the fact that, here in the land of the free, it is literally against the law to call a general strike (see: Taft-Hartley). What those folks are doing across the pond is something we are not allowed to do, with our constitution, bill of rights, etc. That’s because they’ve hung together and fought to hold on to their rights, whereas we appear poised to allow the true party of corporate power (rather than the second-choice party of corporate power) to run the game again.

When will we stop losing this class war? When we finally stand up and tell that top 3 percent that we’re not their monkey anymore.

luv u,

jp

Tale of two trials.

Posted on Leave a commentPosted in Political Rants

Was listening to NPR the other morning, much to my annoyance (no, I’m NOT going to contribute anything, thank you very much!) and I heard a story about a former high official of the Siad Barre regime in Somalia facing possible war crimes prosecution in the United States (where he now resides). Some of his torture victims now live in the U.S. as well, and would like to get some justice. Fair enough. While the correspondent took the time to describe how heinous that regime was, she neglected to mention the fact that our government had sent them something like $1 billion over the Carter, Reagan, and Bush I years. Small detail.

Also heard reports about Radovan Karadzic’s trial for war crimes. I have to admit, the first thing that came to mind was the happy accident of Dick Cheney’s having been born in the United States. What a pity that Karadzic hadn’t started the Iraq war instead of killing tens of thousands of Bosnians! He would be enjoying his comfortable retirement right now, perhaps even bragging about his war crimes on network television, instead of standing in the dock at The Hague. Same deal with that Somalian intelligence chief. Perhaps his adopted homeland will offer him some kind of legal protection, since (clearly) torture is not considered a serious, prosecutable crime here… so long as it is practiced on those we dislike.

Perhaps it’s unfair of me to single out NPR. I just guess I’m getting annoyed with hearing Jim DeMint, Judd Gregg, or some other “conservative” leading light every time I tune in. On Thursday I got to hear from a Democrat…. Bart Stupak. Who’s running Washington again? (Oh, yes. On Wednesday, during the “Political Junkie” segment of “Talk of the Nation”, there was an extended conversation with Mitt Romney, a.k.a. Guy Smiley, a.k.a. Bush redux.) Meanwhile, the daughter of our own Karadzic is reviving McCarthyism with a web commercial attacking what she terms “The Al Qaeda Seven” in the Obama justice department. So not only does the war criminal brag of his guilt in plain sight, but his spawn is somehow treated as possessed of some expertise by virtue of her father’s ill deeds.

How green with envy old Radovan must be.

luv u,

jp